Crowd-Funded Gun Buyback Program Launching in San Francisco

A market-based economy to take guns off the streets.

July 23, 2013— -- Crowdfunding is typically used to finance projects related to the arts or technology, but the funding model made famous by Kickstarter is now being used to take guns off the streets of San Francisco.

The founders of say their site creates a market-­based system that allows online funders to take guns out of their communities in a way that hasn't been possible before.

“It’s funny, because people are paying to have less of something around them,” Ian Johnstone, co-founder of Gunbygun, told ABC News/Univision. Johnstone, a technology entrepreneur, formed the site with Dr. Eric King, a researcher at UC-Berkeley.

This issue is personal to Johnstone, who was 10 years old when he lost his father to gun violence. In the early 1990s, his mother became an advocate for stricter gun laws, organizing protests and lobbying at the state and national level.

Now, Johnstone is continuing those efforts on a much more local scale.

“Seeing Sandy Hook happen got us thinking what are some ways to use the web to tackle this issue in a way that doesn’t require waiting for the federal government to act,” Johnstone said.

Gunbygun has partnered with Mayor Edwin Lee, the city police department, Supervisor David Campos and a number of community groups to operate a series of buyback events in San Francisco this summer.

Gun buyback programs in San Francisco have been popular--so successful that the police department often runs out of cash and has to provide vouchers to people handing over firearms. There are no clear statistics on how this has helped homicide rates, but similar programs in Australia may offer some insight.

In the decade after a 1996 mandatory gun buyback program was introduced in Australia, the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent.

Gunbuyback has plans to expand nationally following the San Francisco buyback program.

“Gun buyback programs are part of the solution, and reform of gun laws is still important,” Johnstone said. He hopes to build demand for his initiative and “embolden elected officials to act in to what they believe is right.”

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